MJFF joins with Synapticure to advance telehealth for specialty care

Effort to expand access to trained neurologists, clinical trials across US

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by Mary Chapman |

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A woman and a doctor wave to each other during an online session.

To assist Synapticure in advancing its nationwide telehealth offerings, the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) helped the company establish an advisory board of people with Parkinson’s disease and their care partners, and it will help to inform Synapticure’s patients of opportunities to participate in clinical research.

Synapticure works to provide access to care for those with Parkinson’s regardless of where they live in the U.S., and whether they have a movement disorder specialist, meaning a neurologist trained to recognize Parkinson’s symptoms and provide personalized disease treatment.

Through greater outreach, Synapticure also seeks to establish a broader, more diverse pool of possible candidates for clinical trials, which are the core of treatment development.

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About one million people in the U.S. are thought to live with the progressive neurodegenerative disorder, but obstacles to proper care abound, Synapticure noted in a press release. They range from lengthy wait times for doctor visits and considerable travel for expert care, to a dearth of neurologists specializing in Parkinson’s so that less than 30% of all patients are cared for by a movement disorder specialist.

Only about 10% have access to a Parkinson’s Center of Excellence, which offers specialized teams of healthcare professionals, Synapticure stated.

Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of patients may never have specialized treatment plans or access to clinical studies, slowing research progress, it added.

“I am really excited to have the Michael J. Fox Foundation as an advisor to Synapticure, as their expertise and leadership in the fight against Parkinson’s will help us build out the best-in-class care platform for people living with Parkinson’s,” said Brian Wallach, Synapticure’s co-founder. Wallach was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2017.

Synapticure’s remote telehealth services, offered in partnership with patients’ care teams, include access to movement disorder specialists, care coordinators, at-home physical therapy, virtual speech and language therapy, and clinical trial education and support. Care for mental health is expected to be offered soon.

Using MJFF-created access programs or “onramps,” the organization will work to make patients aware of opportunities to join in clinical trials and other disease research efforts.

“Incorporating the voice of the patient in research and in the development of solutions for care is essential,” said Evelia Deane, MJFF vice president of partnerships and alliances. “MJFF commends groups like Synapticure who have prioritized direct engagement with the Parkinson’s community, through opportunities like their Parkinson’s Expert Advisory Board.”

The company’s movement disorder team is led by Jaime Hatcher-Martin, MD, PhD, who has long advocated for telemedicine’s use to expand access to specialized neurological care and to mitigate patient burdens. A member of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society’s telemedicine group, Hatcher-Martin established her own telemedicine clinic in 2016 while with Emory University.

“By working together, we can help bring care to every person living with Parkinson’s in the US and, at the same time, help accelerate the research that will lead to breakthroughs in this fight,” said Sandra Abrevaya, Synapticure’s CEO.

The company is included in most major insurance networks and offers insurance navigation support. Parkinson’s patients may register for a Synapticure telehealth visit.

MJFF is reported to be the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, having given more than $1.75 billion to global research programs to date.